What does it take to get a black person’s murder on to the front page of the paper?

Boston OneWhen I was in college in the early 1980s  I was an intern at the 24th Precinct of the New York Police Department.  The 24th is on the upper West Side of Manhattan, between Central Park and the Hudson River and its runs from 110th St. and Harlem in the north to 86th St. in the south.  Then and now it had some of everything socio-economically speaking, the highest of high rent buildings and low rent housing developments.

Back then crime was still enough of a problem New York didn’t have the luxury of arguing over what size soda you could buy. The dangerous parts of the two-four were pretty dangerous and even in the up-scale parts it made sense to be a little nervous if you were out at night.

One day as I headed in to the well-worn precinct house, the top news story in the papers and on TV was the murder the night before of a young women, a recent graduate from Columbia University, in mid-town. I don’t remember all the details of her death but it was a particularly vicious one. The amount of coverage it was getting disturbed me, though, and I asked the sergeant I was working for what he thought about this.

He shrugged a little and said he didn’t know but what he did know was the night before a woman of about the same age died when she was thrown from the roof of one of the housing projects in the 24th. I looked carefully through the papers for the day and was unable to find any mention this.

One of the women who died was white, the other was African-American. I leave it to you to figure out which one was the victim of which crime.

This all came to mind when I read a story on The Blackstonian website about the number of people shot in Boston since the Marathon bombings. From April 15 to May 1, at least 16 people in the city were victims of gunfire, three of them died. None of these crimes were in any danger of being the top story in our news outlets. Most, and I suspect all, got at most a small mention on TV and in the papers. All except one took place in the minority heavy neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury, Roslindale or the not-as-yet-gentrified end of the South End which abuts Roxbury. The one exception was in a housing development in Brighton.

There is no doubt the Marathon bombings were a huge and devastating event which deserves all the attention, outrage and grief it has received. Four people died and nearly 300 people were injured – in many cases severely – as a result of the bombs and the people who set them. Mayor Menino, Gov. Patrick and President Obama have lead a chorus of people urging all of us to be strong and come together to deal with this tragedy. Businesses and individuals from around the world have demonstrated their concern and compassion in many ways, not the least of which is the more than $26 million donated to the Boston One Fund which will be used to aid victims of the bombings and their families. This is a good, generous and wonderful thing.

There have been other days in Boston when three or four people were murdered. Mostly these were in Roxbury, Dorchester, Roslindale or Mattapan. There was some public outrage – especially if one of the victims was very young or very old – and the mayor, the rest of the city government and civic and business leaders provided help and took whatever steps possible to prevent it from happening again. This is how we got the Boston Miracle which has seen the city’s homicide rate go from 150 a year in the early 1990s to around 50 a year today. It’s still too high, of course, and it’s also still a great improvement. What remains, unfortunately, is not: If “only” one or two people are murdered, and the victims aren’t a school child or grandparent, then the story is relegated to the back pages of the city’s consciousness.

I’ve been one of the people who decided these deaths weren’t as important as other deaths. I was a city editor at The Boston Herald in the early ‘90s and when a killing happened in one of these neighborhoods I would tell the reporter to give me a paragraph or two and put it in the briefs section of the paper.

Why? Because I was unthinking and uncaring.  I didn’t stop and think about why newspapers and TV did this. I didn’t question it. I didn’t think that these were people whose lives were being destroyed. They were a story and I gauged the newsworthiness of the story by its novelty – did it stand out in some way from the rest of the news? There is no excuse for this.

Boston is not unique in this respect. I could just as well be describing any major city in the nation. You could blame the media for not giving the stories more play. Or you could blame the people outside of the affected neighborhoods who don’t seem to care. The truth is likely both.

We have come to accept these deaths and injuries as normal because they take place somewhere we have designated as it being OK for them to happen. These crimes are not important enough to warrant a special response.  There is no special fund or outpouring of concern for the 16 people shot in the two weeks following the bombings, although it is likely they also need extra help to recover from their traumas and go on with their lives.

What is the difference between those devastated by the bombings and those devastated by gun fire? I will leave that to you to figure out.


Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger says everything you need to know about bankers

Warren Buffet’s right-hand man:

Berkshire Hathaway Caricatures“You can’t trust bankers to govern themselves. A banker who’s allowed to borrow money at X and loan it out at X plus Y will just go crazy and do too much of it, if the civilization doesn’t have rules that prevent it.”

 “What happened in Cyprus was very similar to what happened in Iceland, it was stark raving mad in both cases. And the bankers, they’d be doing even more if the thing hadn’t blown up. I do not think you can trust bankers to control themselves. They’re like heroin addicts.”


A congress of baboons and other collective/group nouns

Today we will go from Aardvarks to Eagles.

  • BaboonsAn armory of aardvarks
  • A shrewdness of apes
  • A Coffle of asses
  • A congress of baboons 
  • A babble of barbers
  • A bike, bike cast, cluster, erst, drift, game, grist, hive, hum, rabble, stand, or swarm of bees
  • A sute of bloodhounds
  • A rood of boors
  • A keg of bowlers
  • A chatter of budgies
  • An obstinacy of buffalo
  • A clowder, cluster, clutter, destruction, dout, dowt, glaring, kindle, litter, or pounce of cats
  • A parenthesis of cellists
  • A coalition of cheetahs
  • A brood, chattering, cletch, clutch, flock, or peep of chickens
  • A consort of corgi
  • A saunter of cowboys
  • 1-1-13-american-crows-img_4589A cauldron, caucus, congress, cowardice, hover, murder, muster, parcel, or storytelling of crows
  • A squat of daubers
  • A decanter, or decorum of deans
  • A rash of dermatologists
  • A guess of diagnosticians
  • A meaning of dictionaries
  • A vane of directions
  • A bevy, cote, dole, dule, exaltation, flight, piteousness, or prettying of doves
  • A bevy, or frost of dowagers
  • A badelynge of ducks (on the ground)
  • A paddling of ducks (while swimming)
  • A raft of ducks (while idle in water)
  • A flight, plump, or team of ducks (while flying)
  • An aerie, convocation, jubilee, soar, or spread of eagles




No, you’re not from [expletive] Boston

From my column yesterday in The Boston Globe:

THE WORLDWIDE outpouring of sympathy over the Boston Marathon bombing has resulted in a lot of well-meaning out-of-town people and institutions showing their solidarity with us by saying or publishing some version of “We’re all Bostonians now.” In keeping with the true spirit of the city — as perfectly captured by David Ortiz — I’d like to say, “Appreciate the thought, but no you’re [expletive] not.”

Those nice folks shouldn’t take this personally; after all, a lot of us who live here aren’t sure if we’re Bostonians.


I am not a nerd!

I Am A: Lawful Good Human Monk (7th Level) 

I still have all my AD&D books from high school.

I still have all my AD&D books from high school.

Ability Scores:

Lawful Good A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion. However, lawful good can be a dangerous alignment when it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Monks are versatile warriors skilled at fighting without weapons or armor. Good-aligned monks serve as protectors of the people, while evil monks make ideal spies and assassins. Though they don’t cast spells, monks channel a subtle energy, called ki. This energy allows them to perform amazing feats, such as healing themselves, catching arrows in flight, and dodging blows with lightning speed. Their mundane and ki-based abilities grow with experience, granting them more power over themselves and their environment. Monks suffer unique penalties to their abilities if they wear armor, as doing so violates their rigid oath. A monk wearing armor loses their Wisdom and level based armor class bonuses, their movement speed, and their additional unarmed attacks per round.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)


Today’s Spike Milligan Quote

Rommel gunner who

From “Rommel?” “Gunner who?”second volume of his war memoirs:

Driver Shepherd and I had been detailed to drive Lt. Budden in the wireless truck. We had been standing by it for an hour and nothing happened but it happened frequently. Despatch Riders raced up and down the column shouting “Fuck everybody” but that was all. We started to brew tea, when Lt. Budden’s iron frame glasses appear round the truck. “Look damn you! You’re supposed to be standing by your vehicles.”

“Sorry, sir. I’ll say three Hail Marys.”

“Give me a cup and I’ll say no more about it,” he said, producing a cup from behind his back.

Lt. Budden flags down a D.R. “What’s the hold up?”

“I’ll tell you sir. I’m the D.R. who follows the D.R. up in front with a message that cancels out his message.”

A cloud of dust is approaching at high speed. From its nucleus formidable swearing is issuing. It’s our Signal Sgt Dawson, “Get mounted, we’re off” it bellows as it goes down the line, followed by mocking cheers. I jump in, engines are coming to life. the hood is rolled back so Budden can stand Caesar-like in the passenger seat. Shouts are heard above the sound of engines revving. “Right Milligan,” says Lt. Budden. “World War 2 at 25 m.p.h.” He looked back at the long line of vehicles. “My god, what a target for the Luftwaffe.”

“Don’t worry, sir. I have a verbal anti-aircraft curse that brings down planes.”

“Keep talking Milligan, I think I can get you out on Mental Grounds.”

“That’s how I got in, sir.”

“Didn’t we all.”



10 Reasons Roger Williams is the coolest American historical figure you’ve never heard of

Roger Williams (1603 – 1683)

57961_ri_seal_lg1)      Kicked out of Massachusetts for opposing an oath of allegiance to government (but still helps out Massachusetts by getting the Narragansett Tribe to ally with Bay State during Pequot War. Massachusetts, in keeping with a long tradition of being assholes, would later betray the Narragansetts.)

2)      After being convicted of sedition and heresy for spreading “diverse, new, and dangerous opinions” the order to have him kicked out was delayed because Williams was ill and winter was approaching – as long as he ceased his agitation. Guess who went on agitating? So in January 1636 the sheriff comes to get him only to discover that Williams had slipped away three days before during a blizzard. He walked 105 miles through deep snow in the heart of winter from Salem to the head of Narragansett Bay.

3)      First abolitionist in colonies – Rhode Island is only colony to pass a law banning slavery after Massachusetts (no surprise, right?) introduced the first law legalizing slavery in the colonies.

4)      Wrote a pamphlet arguing that land belonged to Native Americans unless they were paid for it. Paid fair market value for land he bought from Native Americans to found his own settlement.

5)      Writes first dictionary Native American-English Dictionary – a best-seller in England.

6)      Because he hated Massachusetts’ courts being able to rule on people’s religious practices he creates the idea of separation of church and state. His book arguing for this was also a best-seller in England and the Parliament ordered it burned by the “Public Hangman” (which probably helped sales).

7)      Founds Providence Plantations (which would later become Rhode Island), the first government (probably in Western history ) to separate Church and State legally.

8)      Although believing his hard-core brand of Puritanism was the One True Way, created a government built around the idea of religious tolerance. He believed that you changed minds through argument not by legal coercion. As a result Rhode Island became a haven for religious and even atheist minorities. This is why Rhode Island has the oldest synagogue in North America.

9)      Seemed to know everyone in England and the Colonies. Only clerk ever to Edward Coke, jurist who is basically responsible for the English legal tradition. Taught John Milton. Good friend of Oilver Cromwell.

10)   Was hated by Cotton Mather. Mather continued to be afraid of Williams and his ideas long after Williams’ death. He wrote in 1702: “There was a whole country in America like to be set on fire by the rapid motion of a windmill in the head of one particular man, Roger Williams.” Mather warned that Williams ideas menaced “the whole political, as well as the ecclesiastical, constitution of the country.”

That ain’t the half of it. Read Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul by John Barry for the whole story.


The Ministry of Culture is a blog (duh!) about whatever interests me, a professional journalist. It looks at current events, culture -- rock & roll, literature, roller derby, opera, comedy -- military history and whatever else crosses my path. All opinions are my own.


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